Sunday, 26 March 2017

Just for the Halibut Derby 2017

This year the derby will be held April 22 and 23, with tickets at $60 per rod. You can pick them up at Island Outfitters. First prize is $7,500; second - $3000; and third - $1000, along with prizes for hidden weights.

Do remember to pick up your new licence as current ones expire on March 31, 2017. DFO has 
improved its site for getting them on-line:  
See them also on:
Halibut limits in Area 19 and 20 (Sidney to Port Renfrew, including Saanich Inlet) are: 1 per day, 
2 in possession, six per year; one no longer than 83 cm and one no longer than 133cm, and you must 
enter your catch on your licence.
We are fortunate that there are multiple places to catch halibut in our area: Jordan River, Muir Creek 
apron, several reefs on Race Rocks, William Head, Constance, Hein, and Border banks, along with 
the Oak Bay Flats and Darcy shoals around Ten Mile Point.
On this year’s derby days, Race Rocks tables show slower current speeds in the morning when most 
people fish. Ditto for Juan de Fuca West. Juan de Fuca East currents are even slower, so one of the 
most important criteria is favourable. Slow speeds are needed if you are not anchored, so that you 
won’t be moved off a bank too quickly. When anchored, slow currents allow you to get your gear 
onto the bottom, particularly in deeper spots, for example, some fish the 300 foot flat out at the 
Quarantine Buoy. 
Oak Bay Flats with its conflicted currents – tide and current moving in opposite direction – can push 
you around on fast days. But even the Flats can be fished on the drift, because it is very broad and 
thus each pass is longer than if you are fishing a pinnacle. In addition, it is relatively shallow compared
 with other halibut spots, with water that is 100- to 150-feet deep across most of it. Sometimes halibut 
are caught in 60 feet of water in front of the Great Chain Islets, and even sometimes while trolling the 
bottom for salmon.
You may recall the very windy weekend many years ago, when the only fishable water in the entire 
area was the Flats with most of the fleet, anchored-up, hiding behind Trial Island as wind whistled 
past, pushing waves before it. A very bumpy fish, but one that yielded 47 halibut over the two days 
of the derby, an almost astonishing number for such a flat, shallow few square miles, with little 
Structure is key in halibut fishing, and banks, pinnacles and ledges concentrate the fish. Bottom 
structure influences tidal speed and direction, something that always spells more life than slow 
moving tidal areas. In the case of halibut, they are predators and the swelling numbers of bait on the 
lower end of the food chain, provides them a reason to stay around. Often, they lie just off the flat, 
where there is a well-defined edge. Edges automatically build up more fish, because, once off the 
edge, it is open space, and thus no reason to concentrate fish. 
Also, bank edges provide for vertical tidal eddies, a condition that also keeps bait fish swirling and 
not moving away. The 140-foot lip on the west Constance side, is an example of such a spot. Those of 
you who have fished Catface Bar just north of Tofino for coho, will have fished a classic vertical eddy 
that sets up because the shallowest part of it is only 12-feet deep, and tide smokes across, pushing bait 
down into the eddy then, in essence trapping it there, in a circular eddy. And Swiftsure Bank is a clover
 leaf of bank surrounded by canyons that drop away. Halibut lie just off the edge so they are below the 
tide smoking past, and thus do not have to waste energy while waiting for food to be swept off the flat.
And there is the flat tight to the USA border. 
An unusual variant of this pattern occurred one day when I was fishing off Ucluelet, 25 long kms off 
Amphritite Point. The oddly named Rat’s Nose, looks like, yes, a rat’s nose. The tide was moving fast, 
and we were trolling for chinook at 250 feet. The current was so fast it moved us off into deep water 
of 500 feet. As we caught one chinook, we kept going in a circle, catching more, and getting farther 
and farther away from the bank, where the rest of the fleet was. Radio chatter indicated no catch for 
them, and because we were catching fish, and unable to troll against the tide back to the bank, just 
kept on circling. We picked up our limit of chinook, but also halibut. They were all hanging at the 
same depth as the bank, but pushed so strongly, could not get back to it. 
So, the bank had attracted bait, salmon and halibut to its structure, but then the fast tide moved them 
all off, and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and recognize what was 
In this case, we were fishing salmon gear: hootchies and spoons on leaders to flashers, but still 
catching halibut. And putting bait down that far presented the real issue that it could be destroyed 
simply on descending so far so fast. So, we weren’t using the best gear for halibut.
Yes, bait is your best bet. In our area, typically you put a large herring on the tackle end (if a spreader 
bar, the weight is on the short arm) and because it is soft, and easily inhaled by a halibut, you add a 
salmon belly or octopus tentacle, both tougher than herring, and thus stay on the hook for the halibut 
to come back and whack it again.
Plastic Power Grubs, from Berkeley and others, with their own scent are also used because they are 
tougher than bait. In extreme, dogfish days, even artificial, large hootchies and heavy jigs find good 
use, and you can put artificial scent on them. While this may attract a dogfish, no fish of any species
 is going to destroy one of these lures.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Victoria - Saanich Inlet Angling Association

For this week, go take a look at the post I put up on:

It features a 1931 - 1932 original VSIAA yearbook of some of the interesting fishing stories from Saanich Inlet waters.

Look at this 49.5 pound beauty (zoom it if you can't read it):

I have put a fishing tale in the article noted above. And there is an image there that you can blow up, of a half dozen pages from the original VSIAA yearbook.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Georgia Strait Herring Roe Fishery

Along with many other interest groups, sport fishers would like to see the end of herring roe fisheries that send eggs to Japan as a caviar type specialty food. The problem in the fishery is that the next generation of herring, and the bearing-aged females, are both eliminated at the same time.

My understanding is that herring roe fisheries have been winding down in other areas of the province, but in early spring, local news is filled with stories of gill netting herring in the Hornby Island, Baynes Sound area south of Courtenay/Comox. Sadly, this year, one fisherman was lost off Cape Lazo.

Our perspective is that herring should be allowed to rebuild and provide food for salmon, particularly chinook that reside in or pass through our waters up to 12 months of the year. This would aid the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s work to rebuild Strait of Georgia coho and chinook, a sport fishery with a conservatively estimated potential of contributing $200 million to the BC economy. In addition, by bumping up chinook numbers, we also aid our orcas in rebuilding.

One of my various list serves has been discussing the remaining industry. I am told it is owned largely by Jimmy Pattison, with commercial fishers working for him, a circumstance few of us would support. 

DFO does soundings and fly-overs to estimate herring biomass. You may have heard in the news that herring is at near historic levels (even though past graphs of abundance on DFO’s site show figures far higher than in 2017). While not all the figures below add up, here is the recent DFO commercial post:

DATE: Mar 9, 2017
Shelter Pt to Cape Lazo-------Mar 8: Schools in the shallows 
E.C. Denman Island------------Mar 9: Scratches 
Lambert Ch. to Chrome Is------Mar 9: Scratches 
E.C. Hornby Is----------------Mar 9: Not assessed
Tribune Bay/Lower Hornby------Mar 9: Not assessed
Upper Baynes Sd---------------Mar 9: A few schools
Lower Baynes Sd---------------Mar 9: 6,000 tons 
TEST: Mar 9 Lower Baynes 9.5% 19.7cm 59m:50f 47-2-2-4-5(20gm:85gm)
Mapleguard to Nile Cr---------Mar 9: Not assessed
Nile Creek to French Cr-------Mar 9: Not assessed
French Cr to NW Bay-----------Mar 9: Not assessed
Total 14:  60,000 tons 
Dorcas Pt/Schooner Cove-------Mar 9: Small schools
Inner Nanoose-----------------Mar 9: Not assessed
Outer Nanoose-----------------Mar 9: 1,000 tons 
Blunden to Neck Point---------Mar 9: 3,000 tons
Neck Pt to Dodd Narrows-------Mar 9: 500 tons
TOTAL AREA 17N:  5,000 tons assessment underway
AREA 17 SOUTH-----------------Mar 9: Not assessed
Total Area 17N: Not assessed
TOTAL STRAIT OF GEORGIA: Assessment underway.
There are three test vessels assessing Area 14 concentrating from Komas to the Horseshoe and in Baynes Sound this morning. There have been large heavy schools located in Lower Baynes Sound below the ferry crossing. 
The seine fishery opened today March 9 at 10:40 hours in Lower Baynes Sound. 
The fishery was also open on March 8 from 07:45 to 14:00 hours, catch estimate 3,000 tons; March 6 from 11:00 to 16:00 hours, catch estimate 2,500. The total seine fishery catch estimate on hails and validations is 6,000 tons of the 13,013 ton quota. 
The roe herring gill net fishery has been open since March 4. The catch for the gill net fishery is 6,700 tons of the 15,171 ton quota.   
Spawn flight this morning from Nanaimo to Rebecca Spit observed light spawn 
Nuttal Bay, 2.5NM at Willemar Bluffs, and 6.5 NM Lazo to Kitty Coleman. Total 
miles of spawn to date observed from the flights are approximately 30 NM. There will be a spawn flight tomorrow morning, weather permitting.
Also a reminder to the fleet transiting the Nanoose area that Whiskey Gulf 
Range is active today. 

From the list serve, comments from David Ellis, who used to be the chair of COSEWIC: (See: Former Head, Pacific Fishes, COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). I pass these on as they help to inform the issue from a perspective other than our sport:

“In B.C. today, sounding estimates of the size of schools or herring biomass are only made during the frenzy of the commercial fishery, but in fact, B.C. First Nations, sport fishers and local people can and do monitor the size and location of herring schools all year, by sounding or watching for heavy bird activity. The large "migratory herring" schools that move in to spawn in the Salish Sea in the spring, can and should also be monitored in the summer months in the outside waters of Juan de Fuca Strait and Cape Flattery. They are a massively important long term economic asset of the Canadian people.

“Thus as the last "old fashioned exploitation" roe herring fisheries collapses, the emerging future is a "herring enhancement program" that will turn over "stock assessment" to local community commercial fishermen, First Nations harvesters, volunteers, or sport fishers, who together can provide year-round, better long term data on the size of the herring schools. The data gathered by these dedicated local folk, now needs to be co-ordinated with that from a fleet of new, smaller, and affordable Government chartered assessment vessels that can and will “sound” and monitor the herring schools, all year.”

Ellis has penned a note to PM, Justin Trudeau, DFO Minister, Dominic LeBlanc, and Treasury Board President, Scot Brison, dated March 12, 2017:

“First Nations, fishers, environmentalists and Tour operators have worked together to shut down the old-fashioned roe herring fishery on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and Haida Gwaii, and, after a monumental effort, have succeeded; the same pressure is leading to much smaller roe herring fisheries on the central and north coast this year.

So, herring is actually rebuilding as we speak, at a great rate (great thing about herring, is that it does this, and rapidly!) all over the coast, EXCEPT in the Salish Sea, where the remnant herring stocks are being scientifically located by DFO, and then everywhere fished down for yet another year in the roe herring fishery. 

The major problem now is that DFO policy has not yet changed and is still designed around proving roe herring to Pattison's Canadian Fishing Company plant in Vancouver; this despite the fact that:

A). First Nations are and always will be left without roe herring for family use, forever, if the large female herring are killed every year by roe herring fishing;
B). The market for roe herring has collapsed in Japan, and only the Jim Pattison Group is still making a profit; corporate concentration, in this case the control of all seine vessels through mortgage, and of the gillnets by low "paid to the fisherman" prices, leaves only Mr. Jim Pattison the wealth creator (at the expense of everyone else, as this is a publicly shared "common property resource");
C). The DFO "forage fish" policy is much discussed but not yet implemented;
D). Chinook salmon, totally dependent upon herring for growth and good health, are bottoming out in terms of returning numbers (biomass) and size coastwide, leading to nutrition and survival problems for endangered Orca [which may in turn lead to the legal shut down of the Trans Mountain pipe line construction] and the stifling of the potential multi-billion-dollar sport fishing industry for the world-sought Chinook salmon;
E). Coho salmon, heavily dependent upon "young of the year" herring, are failing to rebuild in the Salish Sea, also stifling a potential multi-million-dollar sport fishing industry component; and,
F). Sea bird populations, heavily dependent upon many herring spawns and abundant "young of the year" herring, are in decline in the Salish Sea, and this is stifling a potential multi-million-dollar bird watching industry, and public joy for both residents and tourists. 

I want to suggest that the reasonable solution for the Government of Canada is to re-assess the situation in terms of economic efficiency and fair distribution of public benefits, and now do the right thing and develop, with the public, new and futuristic public policy that will:

A). Announce a ten-year closure of roe herring fishing in B.C., and divert these government personnel and funds to:
B). Plan and implement a comprehensive "herring enhancement program" that focuses on herring rebuilding and community participation in this program through assessment of all herring populations, all year, and full protection and rehabilitation of herring spawning habitat (already begun by private sector volunteers at Squamish, B.C.).”  

Food for thought. 

1,411 Words

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Saanich Inlet - Fishing With Bill

For Saanich Inlet Fishing History, see:

Your recent articles bring back fond memories of Saanich Inlet. I was born to Victoria parents in 1941 that had a tie to a Major Sinclair. As I recall it, my grandfather and father would visit him and I would tag along. At the Major’s house, a youngster was left to his own devices, as the adults discussed and conversed with the Major who was both deaf and blind due to injures from both the BOER WAR and WW1. It was fascinating to watch them touch the Major’s hand and fingers creating an alphabet that spelled out the questions. Often the Major would complete the question mid sentence and the answers came quickly. This was fascinating for awhile, but the stronger pull was to tour the Major’s house which was filled with artifacts from both wars and beyond. There were lances, swords, muskets, armour, art work in huge numbers and was a fascinating place to visit as a youngster.

It also turned out that the Major owned 17 acres off West Saanich Rd. close to Willis Point and across from Bamberton. The property had a house at the road site, but a long interesting dirt road wound it’s way down to the beach where there was a log cabin and boat house. If the weather was dry, there was no issue getting the car down and back up from the log cabin, but if the ground was wet, getting back up was an adventure. Terrain was steep and the roadway had a couple of bumps that made passengers get out of the car and push the car thru the humps.

The fishing experiences came from a row boat housed in the boat house. Davits at high tide dropped the boat into the water and beach moorage allowed us to push the boat into the Inlet. Initial fishing trips necessitated the cutting of branches from trees that were wedged between the gunwale and floor of the row boat that were used to attach hand lines with Willow Leaf lake trolls and worms as bait. Fishing was so good that we used 2oz. and 4 oz. sinkers and no net to harvest more than enough fish to feed my dad’s family of 6 brothers and sisters plus my 3 brothers.

The row boat put on a lot of miles. Many times we crossed the inlet and rowed most mornings along the shore line north to Coles Bay and back. A morning’s catch often exceeded a dozen grilse which we cooked on an open fire grate built on top of a rock collection. Breakfast was always exciting as Dad or an Uncle would prepare pancake mix and the fry pan on the grate was used to flip the half cooked pancake up into the air with a “sometimes” successful entry back into the pan to cook the other side. Unfortunately, life changed for us when the Major passed on in the early 50’s, and the property was sold, but the family was committed to stay on the Inlet somewhere and eventually found their own property on Madrona Drive near Deep Cove which we still use to this day.

Dad is now 100+ and fortunately has a great memory. Hopefully I’ve described life for us on the Inlet. I will close with, NO, the row boat is long dead, although it did accompany us to the Madrona site, but families grew, earning capacity grew, which allowed us to move to an assortment of boats. An inboard Briggs and Stratton was in Pokey and a ski boat, sailboat, became part of the scene as Dad and two of his brothers where the owners of the property and still are today. Thanks for allowing me to share my share my family’s life on the Inlet with you.


Bill Gower

Biography for Bill Gower

Bill’s career has been, and still is, in the sport fishing industry. Please note that in this and other posts on this site, I make minimal editing: for length, spelling and where grammar changes aid reader understanding. I leave the flavour of the original author:

Born in Victoria in 1941. Schools: Kingston St., South Park in James Bay and on to Vic Central and Vic High graduating in 1959. Worked retail in Victoria and Van thru 1964. Started as a rep in the golf/ski/clothing industry back in 1964 working for an agency that represented Campbell Golf out of Ontario. Interesting that they made Arnold Palmer and Gary Player products under license and had famous Canadian Moe Norman under contract. SOOOO many stories. Winter was Hart, Kneissel Skis and ass’t accessories and clothing was S.E. Woods, famous for commercial wool wear, parkas, and sleeping bags. A lot of the bags were made for extreme cold and mining purchased a lot of them to explore the Yukon and N.W.T., leaving them behind due to weight factors when returning south.

S.E. Woods did regional production out of a place near V.G.H. using a chap by the name of IRV DAVIES. This name is important, as Irv and I left the agency at the same time, with Irv developing a product called a floater coat which ended up as a brand called Mustang. My change was not so dramatic although a bit historical in that Daiwa Canada came into existence in 1967 with Don Ellis as president. Don also had an agency that marketed Algonquin Fishing Tackle, Algonquin Marine Accessories and Grew Boats. I was fortunate to take this over due to Don’s conflicts and sold these products from 1967-1978.

Daiwa made a bid to purchase Algonquin because they spooled and sold Stren Line out of their Canadian operations based in Toronto. This left me out in the cold and fortunately I was given a lead to contact Normark Canada. They hired me and I contacted Plano Molding for representation and found out that Normark was affiliated with Blue Fox. Looking for more companies to work with, Gibbs under George Whatly, hired me for the prairies and Washington and Oregon, and Scott Plastics hired me for the prairies. Both of these companies made changes 3 years later and I was fortunate to replace Gibbs with Lucky Strike Bait Works out of Peterborough.

Other manufacturers came and went, (the lot of being a rep salesman) but my relationship with the fishing industry is now 50 years old as Normark (now Rapala) and Lucky Strike is still represented by us. Us, is now Steve Gower, Kyle Bryan and myself, with Steve joining me in the early 90’s and Kyle is now in his 3rd year. We cover from Thunder Bay to Victoria with Steve based in Calgary and Kyle working out of our local office. A lot of people ask me about retiring, and my answer is why? As long as I am contributing and healthy, it is too much to ask as business relationships have become personal, and the stories and characters of the road would be missed.

I was part of the original directors of S.F.I. [Sport Fishing Institute] when it was established in B.C. and was a director with the Canadian Professional Sales Association for a number of years. Former President of the Sunshine Hills Tennis Club with personal interest in golf, tennis, and of course fishing. Re fishing, have visited most of the coastal fishing places from Victoria to Langara, but world travel opportunities have found me at Lake Ocochobee in Florida along with Ft. Lauderdale area fisheries, Mexico, Finland, Australia (with the Sydney Opera House in the background), Tasmania to name others. Within Canada, I think the only provinces missing are the extreme north. Not sure what’s next, but one thing for sure is that an annual trip to Pt. Renfrew is a constant.

Married with wife Jo-Ann, son Steve, daughters Christy, Lindsay and Jill and 5 blessed grandchildren.